"In simple terms, what experienced teachers are asked to do is to share their knowledge and skills with those starting out as teachers and to help them to acquire confidence and competence in their turn." (Teacher Education Partnership Handbook, 2010:4)

Each year around 600 teachers act as hosts to students on school experience. St Mary’s University College has developed a Partnership Handbook to provide teachers with information regarding this vital aspect of the degree course. If you are hosting a student this year, he/she will have a copy of this handbook, however, if you would like to request a copy then please contact the Schools Office in the College. Click on either of the following links to submit and email to the School Office Secretary : Rhonda Hughes


Role Of The Teacher
Helpful Information For Teachers Based On Research
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)

What are the dates for School Experience this year?

For how long should students remain in school?

What are ERASMUS students?


Can I look through a student’s files?



What should I do if I am not happy with a student?



Will tutors let the school know when they are coming out to see students?



Will the College tutor discuss the student’s progress with me?



What happens if a student is absent?



What Is Expected Of The Teacher In Accepting A Student


Within the school, class teachers are best placed to undertake the following activities:

  • supporting the student teacher in developing subject application, classroom teaching skills and an understanding of how pupils learn;
  • planning/teaching lessons jointly with the student teacher;
  • observing lessons and other aspects of the student teacher's work, and giving regular feedback designed to help the student identify strengths and development needs, and sharing these observations with HEI tutors;
  • liaising with the teacher-tutor and the HEI tutor about the student teacher's progress;
  • using a lesson observation report form as a basis for discussion with the student teacher and the HEI tutor.

(Teacher Education Partnership Handbook, 2010:40)





Outline Of Various Roles Identified By Host Teachers


Research has identified seventeen roles associated with being a host teacher during school experience. Each of these roles are provided in the table below. If you click on each you will be provided with a definition and examples of how students interpret these roles.








Field (1992) was interested in finding out from teachers, who acted as hosts to student teachers, what they believed 'to supervise' a student on school experience meant in one word. The responses included the following:

  • advise
  • offer alternatives
  • encourage
  • be a role model
  • share
  • guide
  • demonstrate
  • oversee
  • help/assist
  • suggest
  • observe
  • praise
  • monitor
  • rescue
  • be a counsellor
  • direct
  • collaborate
  • be available
  • motivate
  • nurture



Conducting A Debriefing Session


Hurst and Wilkin (1992) devised a list of guidelines for teachers who have students in the classroom during school experience, ranging from developing a relationship with the University and student to assessing the student on his/her performance. One section of the guidelines included how teachers should conduct a debriefing discussion with the student, which was divided into three parts: general procedures; the general-skills agenda; and the subject-specific agenda. The guidelines were based on suggestions made by teachers at a weekend residential in-service mentor training course run by the Department of Education at the University of Cambridge.


General Procedures - Suggestions by teachers included that they should:

  • organise a weekly, formal meeting with the student and have additional informal meetings on request
  • devote time to discussing the preparation and evaluation of lessons with the student
  • check that the student is maintaining both planning and evaluation records of his/her teaching in the school experience file and review file regularly with the student
  • encourage the student to review and reflect upon his/her practice and show that learning stems from mistakes
  • use appropriate response styles depending on specific circumstances
  • engage in constructively evaluating the student's practice rather than critically assessing it and finish all meetings on a positive note
  • make notes during observation of the student as a basis for later discussion and provide notes to the student
  • provide evidence to support comments made on the student's performance


The General-Skills Agenda - Suggestions by teachers showed that they should promote the development of the student selectively in the preparation of lessons and teaching material by asking the student:

  • are the aims and objectives of the lesson appropriate?
  • is the material suitable for the range of abilities within the class?
  • is it integrated with previous lesson topics related to children's own knowledge and experience?
  • is the material well structured?
  • is the planned use of resources creative and likely to motivate?
  • is there sufficient variety of teaching methods to maintain interest?
  • does the planned use of materials take account of cultural background and gender issues?

Similarly, questions should be put to the student on: lesson participation; taking a lesson; classroom management; presentation of self; relationships with the class; language skills; among others.



The Subject-Specific Agenda - Suggestions by teachers were based around the subject area History as an example, and it was felt that the teachers should evaluate and develop the student's ability to:

  • plan a sequence of lessons using a theme, topic or period
  • make use of a range of historical sources such as pictures, documents, and artefacts, and to have a clear understanding of the reasons for using the chosen sources, e.g. evidence or illustration
  • encourage in the children a questioning attitude with respect to the possibility of bias, selective reporting and a lack of reliability in historical evidence
  • develop children's empathetic understanding, e.g. with respect to the intentions, motives and actions of those who lived in the past
  • distinguish in the presentation of material between cause and consequence, change and continuity
  • use historical concepts precisely and develop within the children a similar respect for the exactness of such terms


Edwards and Collison (1996) suggested some questions that teachers might consider following a meeting/discussion with a student, these include:

  • is the focus of conversation mainly on planning or mainly on evaluation?
  • do you mainly give advice or mainly ask questions?
  • what types of questions do you ask and do they elicit the student's ideas about practice?
  • how do you manage constructive criticism?
  • does the student ask your advice on teaching during the conversation?
  • what topics, in addition to task implementation, do you touch on?
  • having considered these questions do you think you would make any changes which might benefit future meetings/discussions with the student?



Host Teachers' Characteristics


Research has identified fifteen characteristics associated with being a host teacher during school experience. Each of these characteristics are provided in the table below. If you click on each you will be provided with a definition and examples of how students interpret these characteristics.













Research Report On School Experience 1


TITLE: Teachers' experiences of hosting students during school experience

The aims of this research were to determine teachers’ roles and attributes that had positive influences on their relationship with students during school experience, and to reveal their experiences of playing host to students. What roles did they see themselves occupying? What attributes contributed to a positive experience? What issues arose as a result of school experience? Students enrolled on the Bachelor of Education (BEd) degree at one Higher Education Institution (HEI) spend eight weeks each year of their four-year course in a school, working under the supervision of a host teacher [one week in the first term and seven weeks in the second term]. One aspect of the host teacher’s role is to offer support and guidance to the student and to monitor how well s/he performs as a student teacher. This paper presents the findings of a postal questionnaire issued to all primary school host teachers who accommodated a student from the HEI during school experience in 2002. The questionnaire examined teachers’ roles, attributes, and relationships with students, as well as practical problems encountered, including stress, benefits gained, usefulness of documentation provided, consideration of their views on students, and effects on their professional practice. Five hundred and ninety-eight questionnaires were distributed and two hundred and seventy-four were completed and returned, resulting in a 46% response rate. Data generated from the questionnaires were enhanced through the form of semi-structured interviews with a sample of host teachers. The findings are discussed in relation to relevant literature on the roles of teachers accommodating students during school experience.

For a full copy of the research report contact Rhonda Hughes



Research Report On School Experience 2


TITLE: Report of a survey of students' views on their school experience

This report is part of a research and development project undertaken in St Mary’s University College to enhance its partnership with schools. The research element of the project is aimed at capturing the views of students relating to school experience in order to assist tutors to provide the optimum support structures for them. Areas of experience mapped include: the typical roles and characteristics of host teachers (those teachers who facilitate a student in their classroom); the factors which may have a negative influence on the host teacher-student relationship; the stress levels associated with school experience; the practical or organisational problems encountered in the classroom; and the benefits gained in terms of the students’ professional development. Within each main theme soundings have been made with research literature.

For a full copy of the research report contact Rhonda Hughes



Stages Of Student Learning


(Furlong & Maynard 1995)

Early Idealism (Before School Experience Begins)

Students can have expectations that are idealistic and identify with the pupils rather than the teacher. They can be idealistic about the teacher they aspire to be, in that they do not want to make pupils fearful of them, they want to talk to pupils as equals and want to be caring and encouraging, their personality and relationships with the pupils are more important in their eyes compared to their effectiveness as a teacher. They can also be idealistic in their relationships with pupils, in that they aspire to be warm, friendly, caring, popular and respected. They can also have idealistic views on the physical appearance of the classroom, in that it is large, airy, spacious, bright, full of colourful displays, with a happy, lively and buzzing atmosphere.


Personal Survival (Early Days/Weeks Of School Experience)

Students can experience a feeling of vulnerability as they are unaccustomed to the rules, routines and expectations of the teacher. Students level of self-esteem can also be diminished if pupils do not respond positively to them stamping their authority in the class.

Students strive to be seen as a teacher and not just assigned to work with a group of pupils, they want to have whole-class teaching.

Fitting in and conforming to the usual style of teaching for uniformity and stability can cause conflict for students as they may have a different approach compared to the teacher.

Students usually have to challenge the 'ideal' between pupils liking the student (friend) and students having to establish their authority. The 'ideal' teacher which students initially wanted to be is often replaced by the teacher they feel they have to be in order to survive.

Establishing control in the classroom leads to a smoother performance by the student, however it can be a battle to get the full attention of all the pupils. When the student feels out of control, then he/she is consumed with fear, anger, frustration and exhaustion, leading to a poor performance.


Dealing With Difficulties (As And When They Arise)

When students strive to establish themselves as teachers, there is a shift from personal survival to survival as a teacher by mimicing what they believe to be teacher behaviour. This mimicing however is in relation to the appearance of a teacher rather than the conceptual understanding of what being a teacher involves.

There are many pressures associated with the student trying to impress. They can feel vulnerable and fearful of the teacher and often try to come up with new and exciting ideas to impress. There is also the pressure of trying to impress the pupils, as well as the lecturers during their visits.

There are also difficulties relating to teaching strategies and classroom organisation, with students having to consider the clarity of their explanations, their use of questioning, how they organise pupils into work groups, the elaborate preparation of worksheets, and differentiating planned work for the pupils based on their abilities, etc.

On many occasions students adopt and vary the strategies and talk used by the teacher to gain approval, to disguise a lack of experience/understanding, and because they know of no alternatives as yet. However, socialisation in this way could lead to tension as the student becomes quietly critical of the teacher's methods and practice whilst striving for personal autonomy.


Hitting A Plateau (Towards End Of School Experience)

The students appear to be growing in confidence in relation to managing the class and turning into a teacher both personally and professionally. However, most students are merely going through the motions of teaching and 'acting' as a teacher instead of 'thinking' as a teacher.

There are therefore still difficulties with teaching and learning, students find problems with devising and delivering lessons which reflect a detailed engagement with children's understanding and their learning over time. Factual knowledge, i.e. 'knowing that' is considered easier to understand and to teach compared to conceptual knowledge, i.e. 'knowing how/about'. Students can also be lacking in their use of practical work/activities which they see as far too risky to contemplate as it may lead to them losing control of the class.


Moving On

In order to understand the roles and responsibilities of being a professional educator students have to consider the quality and value of what and how children learn, therefore teachers become more interventionist. They challenge students and get them to evaluate their whole understanding of teaching and learning by asking them to re-evaluate their planning and reflect on the broader implications of the activities they devise in terms of how pupils think and learn. Questions which students need to consider include:

  • what exactly are you wanting the pupils to learn?
  • why do the pupils need to learn this?
  • what use will this learning be to them?
  • what is the best method of teaching this?
  • how will you support and differentiate this learning?
  • why are you using this method of organisation?
  • what are the implications of this method?
  • what is the pupils' present understanding of this topic, and how do you know?
  • how does this lead on from, use or extend the pupils' present understanding?
  • how does this contribute to their greater understanding of this subject area?
  • what processes and skills are you developing?
  • how will you evaluate and monitor the pupils' learning and your teaching?

Like most challenges, there is usually some form of resistance and this can be true of students who have strongly held, but simplistic beliefs about the nature of teaching and learning. Sometimes being faced with real challenges in the classroom can often lead the student to start questioning him/herself.

Some students do understand the basic concepts of teaching and learning from their academic studies at university, however they can find it difficult to put into practice as thinking about it can lead them to lose control of the pupils. Teaching in ways that reflect more appropriate understanding about how children best learn, e.g. allowing the children to engage in enquiry and investigation through practical exercises, requires students to relinquish or soften their control, which is unsettling to the student.

As the student progresses through school experience, certain constraints are lifted by the teacher by allowing them more authority in the classroom, depending on their capabilities. This enables them to experiment and work in ways which they feel are more consistent with their own ideas about how children should learn. When students teach in a way that reflects their engagement with children's learning, they feel that they gain approval and are encouraged by the teacher, the lecturer, and even the pupils.



Students' Views On School Experience



" School Experience was stressful in the way that I didn't actually know how much was expected of a teacher. I had so many things to do that I panicked at some points but I got through it and it all went well. My organisation of time sometimes didn't go to plan and this meant that work was finished too quickly and the children became restless sometimes. I learnt that classroom control, discipline and effective learning/teaching strategies need to be used to grasp the children's attention at all times. Having boring 'text' work doesn't always work. By knowing all the levels at which the children are working would help me because it would enable me to set work for the weaker children and the more able children."



"After having particularly long, hard and unsuccessful days during school experience I found it incredibly difficult to go home and plan a range of lessons for the next day or had little will to continue. I found it difficult to find a range of new and interesting ways to present information to the class. It was also difficult to find resources for lessons as I have little experience and haven't gathered much up. Looking back I feel that I have developed in maturity a lot and have also gained valuable practical life experience. I also have created a close bond with staff, students and other trainee teachers. Students, however, should be allocated time for planning schemes and lessons prior to teaching practice as this year we had little opportunity to do this as we were doing unrelated assignments. A number of more specific briefings on what exact requirements are needed of your school experience file and how it should be organised should be introduced as this is somewhat a vague area."



"At times during my school experience it seemed as of the teacher did not know exactly what I was meant to be doing, I was like a classroom assistant. I got stressed over the amount of preparation involved as well as the completion of the folder. I was nervous when tutors came out and found it very stressful. They are assessing you on one lesson and this does not reflect how you normally teach. Practical problems included getting and making my own resources as this was quite costly and it all added up. I felt that I gained an excellent experience from hands-on working with children and playing a part in the school life. I do feel that more time should be provided to students to plan and prepare material for school experience. Al least a full week with no assignments or classes in order to gather resources and materials."



"My class teacher for school experience was very difficult to get on with. At times she was very nice to me and at other times she barely spoke. It was a very difficult class to be in as the teacher was unpredictable and the children were very lively. The teacher wasn't always very accommodating in letting me use certain resources. What I learned from the experience is how to work in a stressful classroom with a very lively class. The one week of experience in November is too long after 1st Year as the children begin to see you as a classroom assistant and it is difficult to change this. I think that host teachers need to be better prepared for having a student teacher in their class and they must be sure that they want one."



"During school experience I felt it took a lot to prepare lessons and to keep the children interested, you always had to think ahead and ensure that everything was at the children's level and that the work was suited to the ability ranges within the classroom. I found at times that it was very difficult to control the class when they were doing practical activities, they would become noisy and unsettled and so it was hard to get them under control again to do the work. I was able to identify my strengths and weaknesses as a student teacher, and so take them into consideration to improve upon for future teaching practices. In regards to being a secondary trained student I felt that I was under-prepared for subjects such as Science, History, etc, as the College does not provide classes to prepare us for all primary subjects. I felt I was at a disadvantage. However, this does force us to go do the work and prepare ourselves as teachers should."



"I felt stress only during the first 2 weeks of school experience. I found the Head of Department (i.e. the teacher I was with) to be very condescending and demoralising. I was very intimidated by her presence until I proved myself to her. I found timing the lesson plan to be the main problem as it was difficult to get everything done within class time. I gained vital experience and advice for the class teachers which helped to shape me as a teacher and I found the Religion teacher to be very inspiring. Three days would be adequate in November rather than one whole week. I would also like more advice on how to approach troublesome children and how to deal with misbehaviour."



"During my School Experience I was afraid of not getting photocopying done on time, afraid that my schemes and resources were not correct, and that I was spending so much time doing lesson plans. I felt under pressure dealing with discipline problems and coping with special needs pupils, I often asked myself what if something happens to a pupil while in my class? There was no OHP in the ICT room and access to the photocopier was a major problem as you had to leave the material you wanted photocopied in two days in advance. I gained confidence in myself and broadened my subject knowledge. I also gained experience with special needs pupils and got some practice as a form teacher. I also participated in organising school events such as a drama festival and P.E. activities. It would be great to have less paperwork to do and more resources available, with better access to photocopiers and a week off before school experience to prepare."



"The most stressful situations during school experience were unannounced visits from tutors. I also found that I had limited space available to do my work, and found it impractical working between different classrooms. I did enjoy actually being in the classroom and enhancing the pupils' learning by working with them and the staff. However, I do feel that I need more advice on filling out assessment proformas."



Student Stress


Below is a list of 29 items which have been derived from D'Rozario & Wong's (1996) Survey of Practicum Stresses (SPS). These were deemed as being the main types of issues that arise during a student's school experience leading to varying levels of stress. Individual students devise their own coping strategies to deal with these and other issues as they reveal themselves, with some being more successful than others. The reason for adding them here is to make students, teachers and lecturers aware of the many different facets school experience can bestow upon the student.

managing time

managing groupwork

writing detailed lesson plans

managing individual pupil work

fear of failing school experience

giving appropriate feedback to pupils

managing the class and enforcing discipline

being observed by my supervising lecturer(s)

being evaluated by my supervising lecturer(s)

communicating with & relating to the principal

having high expectations of my teaching performance

communicating with & relating to my supervising lecturer(s)

communicating with & relating to other teachers in the school

coping with the overall teaching workload (lesson plans, schemes of work, etc)

striking a balance between school experience and personal commitments (e.g. family)

preparing resources for my lessons (e.g. overheads, worksheets, handouts, etc)

people expecting me to perform tasks beyond my current competency

communicating with & relating to the supervising teacher(s)

helping pupils with emotional/behavioural problems

managing assignments on my school experience

being evaluated by my supervising teacher(s)

being observed by my supervising teacher(s)

selecting appropriate content for my lessons

helping pupils with learning difficulties

communicating concepts to pupils

establishing rapport with pupils

teaching mixed ability classes

marking pupils' written work

delivering a lesson

There are many concerns running through the minds of students during their time preparing for and actually participating in the school experience component of their BEd degree. For example, there may be occasions when planned teaching activities conflict with actual teaching activities due to unforeseen circumstances occurring in the classroom, there may also be concerns with establishing trust with the teacher and the pupils, or with being given the opportunity to further develop your own professional/academic development through active participation in the classroom. Some of the major concerns students face include: not being regarded as a real teacher; having to become a disciplinarian; being assessed; having too little preparatory teaching practice; coping with a heavy workload; teaching about sensitive issues; getting the planning right; getting the teaching right; and dealing with disruptive behaviour. However, major achievements can be achieved by students adopting appropriate coping mechanisms which result in them developing their confidence, creating an orderly classroom, and taking responsibility.



Learning Through Participation


Below is a link to a chart relating to four important issues associated with students learning through participation. The first is to do with the welcome they receive from the school, the second relates to the authority role in the classroom, the third deals with collaborative teaching, and the fourth refers to the type of feedback given to the students during their time on school experience. The initial stage of school experience, when the students enter the school for the first time, often sets the scene for what lies ahead. If the welcome is a positive one, then it can alleviate any pre-conceived fears the students may have, if it is a negative one, then the students' fears can be raised possibly resulting in turmoil and extreme anxiety. Ultimately the teacher has authority in the classroom, however one aspect of school experience is for the students to feel some level of authority during their time in the classroom, this inevitably strengthens their character and improves their self-esteem. Collaborative teaching has many benefits for all involved - student, pupils and teacher and refers to jointly planned and taught lessons. Feedback from the teacher is a vital ingredient of school experience where the students learn about themselves through the eyes and ears of a more experienced person, however it is important that it is sensitive in approach, constructive in meaning, and suitably timed.




What Are The Dates For School Experience This Year?

This will be dependent on the stage the student is at within the programme. Please contact the Schools Office for details.



For How Long Should Students Remain In School?

Each school is different and we ask students to check with the principal and/or Head of Department regarding their expectations. We would expect students to remain in school all day (regardless of whether or not they have class) and to remain after school as necessary for preparation for the next day. Many primary schools expect the students to work to the same hours as the teachers  and we would regard this as good practice.



What Are ERASMUS Students?

Second year students have the option of studying in Europe for a term. These students will complete a shorter period of school experience (four weeks) either in January or in May. There are the same expectations regarding preparation and teaching.



Can I Look Through A Student’s Files?

Yes, we would welcome host teachers and tutors looking through students’ files. Students’ are guests in your school and you should be well informed about what they intend to do with your classes and how they mean to do so. These files should be kept fully up to date and available at all times to all stakeholders including the class teacher, teacher tutor, principal and college tutors.



How Many Visits Will A Student Normally Receive?

Students will receive three or four visits, and schools will be notified in advance:

2 visits
1 visit
1 visit
2 Primary
2 visits
1 visit
1 visit
2 Post-Primary
2 visits
1 visit
1 visit
2 visits
1 visit
1 visit
2 visits
1 visit

College tutors try and spread these visits reasonably over the course of Schools Experience. Normally students will have their first visit within the first three weeks (mid-term breaks allowing), a further visit within the next two weeks and a final visit sometime in the last two weeks.



What Should I Do If I Am Not Happy With A Student?

You can either wait and discuss your concerns with the college tutors or if you prefer you can contact the College directly. Please do not hesitate to contact the College if you are not happy with either a student’s progress or attitude. It is important to the College that students act professionally and we would like to know if this is not the case.



Can I Ask The Student To Help Out In Other Activities Outside Of The Classroom?

Yes, the title of this element of school based work changed from Teaching Practice to School Experience some years ago in order to signify the emphasis placed on the wider school life. Many students will become involved in after school activities, break duty, assisting with the preparation of children for the sacraments, assisting with school concerts and so on, the College very much encourages this aspect of school placements.



Will Tutors Let The School Know When They Are Coming Out To See Students?

Tutors will arrange visits to the student in consultation with the school. If a tutor is unable to visit a student as previously arranged we ask that s/he will notify the school and arrange an alternative date. Schools normally let students know when a tutor has been in touch to arrange a visit – please discuss with a tutor if you do not think this is appropriate.



Will The College Tutor Discuss The Student’s Progress With Me?

Absolutely, the College places a great deal of value on the teacher/school’s input regarding the student’s preparation, teaching and professionalism. When tutors come to see students in school we only get a snap shot of their performance and we talk to teachers to see if what is observed is a true reflection of the student’s performance to date.



What Happens If A Student Is Absent?

If for any reason a student is absent from school, the School Principal, the College Tutor and the Schools Office should be informed as early as possible. A medical certificate must support absences of more than three days. A student who is absent from school for five days or more may be required to make up this time with additional practice normally at the end of school experience.

St Mary’s have developed a Code of Practice for students on School Experience. The Code of Practice outlines the College’s expectations of professional behaviour and attitudes during school experience. A copy of the Code of Practice can be found in the Host Teacher Handbook.


top of page